An inconvenient truth – how the shipping industry’s environmental footprint can be improved.

Time for facts

Season’s greetings from EGCSA!

Looking forward there are now just 24 months until the global 0.50% fuel sulphur limit comes into force and over a year has passed since the industry-changing decision by IMO. Looking back, will 2017 be remembered as the year of fake news? Certainly the term has entered the common language, perhaps more so than the phrase “alternative facts”. The terms are common descriptions of news or information that do not meet the readers’ pre-conceptions.

But why is this relevant to EGCSA?

Rejection of investment in technology by some

The organisation was set up in 2008 when discussions on amendments to MARPOL Annex VI sulphur emissions limits were beginning. At the time there was a vociferous rejection of any investment in technology to meet sulphur emissions compliance and for some ship owners and operators that still continues today.

Back then the Independent Tanker Owner’s Association proposed that IMO prescribe the use of diesel fuel to achieve lower global sulphur emissions. It was suggested that this would create a “level playing field” and avoid the need for its members to invest in technology, even though its members had been using the technology without much trouble for over 40 years to produce inert gas for avoiding explosive atmospheres in crude oil tankers. Wet scrubbers got a really bad press with claims that this equipment simply transferred an airborne pollutant into a seaborne pollutant.

Tackling misinformation

In the face of what some would call today “fake news”, EGCSA was formed with a remit of honesty, transparency, and a proactive approach to tackling matters and concerns related to marine exhaust gas scrubber technology. The organisation and its members have contributed to many forums from Parliamentary select committees, to the European Sustainable Shipping Forum, the US EPA Office of Water Quality and at the top of the marine regulatory pyramid the International Maritime Organisation. EGCSA has worked with other associations including a significant wash water sampling programme jointly sponsored with Euroshore; the representative body for the ship waste collection industry.

The organisation continues to support the development of frameworks and controls to ensure technologies and emissions management solutions are sustainable; including the updating of IMO’s Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems – MEPC.259(68). The guidelines have broken new ground for IMO by including for the first time a method of in-service performance assurance involving continuous emissions monitoring. Scheme B as it is known, not only simplifies the approval process, but also provides all with re-assurance that EGCS equipment is delivering the geographical emissions compliance required by MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 14.

As an outcome of the learnings from the Euroshore & EGCSA joint wash water sampling programme, EGCSA has published the best practise sampling guidelines on its website. Given the infinitesimally low levels of criteria pollutants in the wash water samples and the tendency for some of the pollutants to vanish if they are not captured correctly and analysed within a very short time frame it is critical that samples taken by ship’s crews and other third parties follow the guidelines in order to achieve meaningful and comparable results.

An inconvenient truth

As well as fake news, the phrase “an inconvenient truth” was again coined in the title of a Hollywood film about the possible outcome of man’s impact on climate. It seems that the inconvenient truth for 2020 is that switching to a distillate or 0.50%S blended fuel oil, instead of fitting scrubbers, will result in an overnight increase in shipping created CO2 emissions. Depending on the production processes of the 0.50%S fuels and taking into account the small CO2 emission caused by the neutralisation of sulphuric acid, (the compound formed by wet scrubbing) there is calculated to be an increase of between 5% and 20%.

The challenge for the run-up to 2020 is how to gain a common understanding and more widespread agreement that working in a honest and transparent way will create better outcomes of a cleaner and less polluted environment than fake news and avoiding the inconvenient truths.

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas holiday, we wish you every success in the year ahead.

Don Gregory





Don Gregory
December 2017

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